Canada is investing more than $19 million in studies and infrastructure projects to help communities move away from coal.
The money, originally pledged in 2019, comes from the Canadian Coal Transition Initiative and the Canadian Coal Transition Initiative Infrastructure Fund, Daniel Vandal, minister responsible for Prairie Economic Development Canada, announced Monday. These two funds are helping affected communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan shift their economies away from coal-fired electricity generation.
Saskatchewan will receive $13.6 million for 11 projects to help communities create jobs and shift away from coal. Eight projects across Alberta will receive more than $5.6 million.
In 2018, the federal government announced regulations to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030 and created the Coal Transition Funds with a budget of $25 million.
The 2019 budget promised an additional $105 million. To date, more than $32 million has been invested in Alberta communities, while Saskatchewan has received nearly $20 million.
Most of Alberta’s funding is for strategies and studies to help communities find the best way to diversify their economy.
While any funding is a good step, upskilling workers, renovating buildings or repurposing old infrastructure are more urgent than carrying out studies, says Luisa Da Silva, executive director of Iron and Earth, an organization led by oil workers that is trying to secure a prosperous transition to a net zero world by 2050.
One of the most tangible projects to receive funding is the Just Transition Center, run by United Steelworkers Local 1595, where $87,000 will pay for a coordinator to support laid-off coal workers in Wabamun, in Alberta.
Len Austin is the center’s coordinator, and as a sole proprietor, the federal dollars will pay his salary and allow him to continue helping recently laid-off workers at the Highvale and Genesee mines.
Austin helps workers write resumes, apply for federal and provincial programs, and provides computers, internet access, and expertise to those in need.
Meanwhile, the bulk of Saskatchewan’s projects will replace water and sewer infrastructure and repair roads.
These infrastructure projects are exactly the kind of things Canadian energy workers need to see more of, says Da Silva.
The skills workers gain through infrastructure jobs will allow them to escape the boom and bust cycle of fossil fuel industries, she says.
The federal government promised just transition legislation and launched a consultation process in July. The submission deadline has been extended, with no new end date specified.
Federal funds for coal workers are ‘encouraging’, but ‘the scale of Liberal investments is grossly insufficient and continues to favor oil and gas over alternative energy sources,’ a statement read. spouse of NDP MPs Heather McPherson and Blake Desjarlais.
“Until the federal government takes the climate emergency seriously, stops subsidizing the oil and gas industry and instead invests in workers and communities, workers in Alberta will not see an effective transition and the Alberta’s economy will suffer.
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